A few days ago, a small number of Los Angeles clergy were invited to listen to Natan Sharansky present his compromise plan for the Kotel. (I hope to write more about that later.) Before going (and I was the only Orthodox representative who showed up), I conferred about strategy with others who had attended similar meetings elsewhere. Whatever I planned to say was quickly negated by an emotional presentation by the outgoing head of the LA Board of Rabbis, who spoke of her own experience facing the hooligans last Rosh Chodesh. Rabbi HaLevy came over to me at the conclusion of the program, and said that she had something she wished to share. “In the melee, the doors of the bus I was supposed to leave on closed in front of me, leaving me there scared and vulnerable. A haredi woman sensed my feelings, and came over to me, telling me that those who had acted violently in no manner or from represented the women who had gathered to pray. ‘This is not the way we teach our children to act,’ she said.”
The explanation of a solitary, anonymous woman did not quite erase all the negativity of her experience, but it certainly reframed the experience of a Women of the Wall sympathizer, so that she did not see it as reflecting upon the conduct of authentic Torah Jews.
We distance ourselves from the misbehavior of the extremists, telling everyone that they act as individuals, not as a reflection of the community. We should keep in mind a corrolary to this. The black marks left by irresponsible lone-wolves can sometimes be undone by responsible lone-angels.
Well…yes and no, in my opinion. Dennis Prager has often talked about what he calls the Missing Tile Syndrome, which is essentially as follows: Suppose a person is looking at a ceiling consisting of tiles. Every tile is perfect in appearance and well placed, except for one tile, which is missing. Well, the person looking at that ceiling, will very likely notice the space for the missing tile far more than he will ever remember the rest of the ceiling. Such is the way of human nature.
Similarly, most Orthodox Jews may be perfectly fine people, a cut above any other given group of people in terms of their basic moral decency. All it takes, though, are a few of them whose behavior leaves something to be desired, and that is what people will remember and emphasize. Applying this idea to the Women at the Wall situation, while I happen to agree in principle almost completely with the Orthodox Jews, the few who engaged in misplaced quasi-violent behavior, is what will very likely be most remembered by those directly experiencing or witnessing what took place in those situations.
I’m not sure I understand – the outgoing head of Rabbis spoke about her negative experience to an audience of almost entirely non-Orthodox, but the moderating angel-experience was only worthy of a private retelling to someone Orthodox? I guess we need to be working harder on the undoing part.
A nice and important message. However, and I truly believe you know otherwise, the idea behind this statement of yours, “We distance ourselves from the misbehavior of the extremists, telling everyone that they act as individuals, not as a reflection of the community.” does a great disservice to that very same community. As I’ve said before, these “extremists” are very much not “lone wolves” and very much do “reflect” an ill or ills in the community and/or its ideology. The extremist behavior is the tip of an iceberg which broadens to include a much larger number of members of the community who, while they would never behave in that manner, tacitly approve and quietly appreciate the “benefits” of such behavior, and also some leaders who, if not always explicitly (though that certainly exists), implicitly encourage the behavior.
Until the community, rather than circling the wagons and “distancing” itself, acknowledges this reality, no amount of “lone-angles” will be able to undo the ongoing damage that’s being caused.
About these hooligans – let’s not kid ourselves: Most of the people speaking of how “frightened” they are are hardly the delicate flowers they portray themselves as. They know darn well how to provoke the charedim, and they do it deliberately, so they can then use it to portray themsleves as victims.
I’m certainly not condoning extremist beahviour [although at the same time, I’m not criticizing it; I think the issue is not quite so simple, as extremism is not always a vice.] But I do think, if your opinion is representative of mainstream orthodoxy, that we are doomed to failure. Attempting to downplay the acts of Charedim, while a nice idea, never works. It plays right into the hands of those provoking them, because it puts us on defense, and distracts us from own programme. Unfortunately matters of religion are matters of politics, and we have seen time and again that in politics, it doesnt pay to apologize.
Very true! But I would also like to see some ‘lone angels’ grab those ‘lone wolves’ by the tail and swing them out of the Kotel plaza as and when they try to cause trouble.
“Unfortunately matters of religion are matters of politics, and we have seen time and again that in politics, it doesnt pay to apologize.
That is just not true. The apology is a well established part of politics and is key to the regeneration of a fallen politician (think of Bill Clinton).
The extremist behavior is the tip of an iceberg which broadens to include a much larger number of members of the community who, while they would never behave in that manner, tacitly approve and quietly appreciate the “benefits” of such behavior, and also some leaders who, if not always explicitly (though that certainly exists), implicitly encourage the behavior.
And the Religious Zionists are all Prime Minister assassins, even if they wouldn’t actually pull the trigger.
“sometimes be undone by responsible lone-angels”—VERY TRUE yet where are those responsible lone-angels hiding?
As you wrote you were the ONLY orthodox representative attending this gathering, WHY? Wouldn’t a larger representation of articulate, pleasant-speaking Torah ambassadors make a bigger impact? Didn’t Sharansky deserve the respect of a segment of ‘others’ in attendance?
[YA- LA is a large city, BH, with many rabbis. They invited a few score, period. They invited the ones to whom they had some connection. I have zero connection with Federation, but I made the cut as the only right-of-Orthodox center invitee because I do have years of extensive connection with the Israeli Consulate.]
‘”extremism Is not always a vice” — Since I am an advocate of activism in many venues, this statement flashed in front of my face. WHO makes the decision when it is a virtue or vice? Are their boundaries and red-lines of extremism? Is extremism the same in America as it is in Israel? Do we admire the extremism of other groups…. or is theirs considered always VICE???
“As I’ve said before, these “extremists” are very much not “lone wolves” and very much do “reflect” an ill or ills in the community and/or its ideology.”
Merely repeating oneself does not in and of itself make one’s false allegations true. You certainly have made this point more times than I can possible count, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not merely a reflection of your own [and of course your faithful daughter Eytana] and some others who’ve decided that the troublemakers in Beit Shemesh are a reflection of all Charedi Jews worldwide.
Thankfully, most people who’ve interacted with many different sorts of Jews who all fall under the wide umbrella of Charedism, know that this is merely slander and I suspect that many have given up arguing with the likes of Menachem Lipkin, Harry Maryles, and their ilk. They understand that there are many types of Charedi Jews including an extremist faction that is small but makes a lot of noise and garners a lot of attention. They are also wise enough to understand that no amount of public proclamations will stop the extremists and that B”H the wider Charedi community is not given to behaving in the manner in which the extremists behave.
I only bother warning my children about other children who are misbehaving if there’s a reasonable chance that they’ll imitate them. When the other kids are so far out of the mainstream that my own kids know to ignore them, I don’t waste my time.
It is time for mainstream hareidi Jews to get extremely tough with the extremists. Put tough hareidi guys out there who “just happen” to have martial arts experience and neutralize the bully factor. Also start using the legal channels. If the police won’t charge the bullies, file civil suits. Time to take back the turf. Vegetarian statements by rabbis against violence are not enough if you have vilde chayas who don’t listen to anyone. When the rabbis leave the demonstrations, then the violence starts. You have to have tough, savvy, visibly hareidi-looking sadranim (ushers) maintaining order and taking names. The next day the names go up on pashkevilim and get denounced in beis din. Use their own rules against them. Start saying that people who give the hareidi community a bad name have a din rodef.